CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is
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The Right Word

May 25, 2016 (permalink)

"Dancey's [to this very day] a fairy word for gay."  Date uncertain.  Scan courtesy of Aimée Wheaton.

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May 23, 2016 (permalink)

Here's a mollycoddle from 1909.

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May 20, 2016 (permalink)

"I refuse to believe the names of all things begin with one of those twenty-six letters.  It is a mystical, outdated idea."
—William Keckler
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May 19, 2016 (permalink)

Back in 2007, we were asked to collect and define ten magic words for Cabinet magazine's issue on magic.  If you missed that issue, you can see the words here:

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May 16, 2016 (permalink)

Hatbox Ghost photo by Anna Fox.

Illusions and Allusions:
Why the "Happy Haunts" Vocalize at Disneyland's Haunted Mansion

Before X. Atencio wrote the lyrics about "happy haunts" that "materialize and begin to vocalize," a happy haunt was customarily a frequented place, not a ghost.  For example, "She loved to saunter through the happy haunts of childhood" (Amy Le Feuvre, "Not By Chance," The Quiver, 1906).  Atencio wove his magic to transform a locational haunt's empty space into a ghostly sort of material.  There is actually a literary tradition of pairing locational happy haunts with vocalizations.  Such passages may have inspired Atencio's wording when he turned old haunts into old singing haunters.  Five cases in point might suffice:

Our first example, a musical play, might have been in the possession of Disney's Cinderella team as reference/inspiration material.  Morse & Robertson's Cinderella at School: A Musical Paraphrase in Two Acts (1881) features happy haunts alongside merry faces and light voices:

To our happy, happy haunts we go,
With our voices light and free;
And our merry, merry faces show,
That our hearts are ever filled with glee.

Similarly, in Mair Hydref's poem "Tell Me Not My Youth Is Over" (1883) we find "the happy haunts of childhood, / Where I gaily used to sing."

So, too, in The Carse of Stirling, An Elegy (1785): "the happy haunts of love and tranquility naturally lead the poetic mind to celebrate these beauties in song."  

In Frances Sargent Osgood's poem "A Sermon" (1850), happy haunts are mentioned alongside woodland choirs.  Other language in the poem recalls the Haunted Mansion, such as glistening smiles (if not technically grim grins), "wistful music," distorted faces, a "light-painted flower" (recalling fluorescent paints that glow in black light), and "marvellous mystery."

Finally, in Frederic William Louis Butterfield's The Battle of Maldon: And Other Renderings from the Anglo-Saxon (1900), we find happy haunts in conjunction with music, a graveyard, and the grim grinning liminality of gay laughter shifting to a dirge.  (By the way, the reference to the Muses recalls the homage to the Haunted Mansion in Disney's Hercules, in which the Muses appear as singing busts.)

Poetry, Music, Eloquence, 
O let your sorrow speak! 
Let sister Muses weeping come; 
Let all the graveyard seek: 
Of happy haunts since you're deprived, 
No more can blissful Hippocrene, 
No more Castalian spring, 
A rippled laughter gayly trill; 
Instead, a dirge they sing— 
Sad, tearful flow!—and joys of Earth fade 

It was innovative for Atencio to distill a locational haunt into ectoplasm, even as associating haunts with vocalizations kept with time-honored tradition.  Atencio's frame of reference enriched both his allusions and the Mansion's illusions.

[Note: for a great analysis of Atencio's song, see Long-Forgotten's post entitled "When the Spooks Have a Midnight Jamboree."]

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May 13, 2016 (permalink)

"Something about hypnagogic hallucinations" from An Experimental Study of the Eye-Voice Span in Reading by Guy T. Buswell, 1920.

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May 4, 2016 (permalink)

Here's an "aboutcha" in the wild, from 1948.  (For Jonathan Caws-Elwitt.)

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April 28, 2016 (permalink)

This 1906 spelling of choo-choo train, "chw-chw," is a Googlewhack.

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April 23, 2016 (permalink)

"'Time slept on flowers and lent his glass to hope.' —Sigourney."  From A Practical Grammar by Stephen Watkins Clark, 1847.

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March 31, 2016 (permalink)

In the Nippon Television series Death Note (デスノート), we are treated to some Western-style names out of an alternate universe.  (We've retainied the equal signs between the first and last names):
Loyd=Jr. Foughman
In the manga version of the story, the names are a bit different: Toors Denote, Haley Belle, Lian Zapack, Arire Weekwood, Ale Funderrem, Freddi Guntair, Knick Staek, Bess Sekllet, Frigde Copen, Girela Sevenster, Raye Penber, and Nikola Nasberg.

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March 30, 2016 (permalink)

"Each word, each glance, each thought is a centaur, or a hand-headed owl, a grammar-horned deer." —the artists' statement for An Encyclopedia of Everything: Paperworks
From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:

"A bird in the hand-headed owl."  For Gary Barwin.
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March 29, 2016 (permalink)

You've heard of the "less is more" philosophy, but in the song about "one less bell to answer, one less egg to fry, one less man to pick up after," less is fewer.
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March 27, 2016 (permalink)

"Printed without a title."  Technically, that is the title of Garcia: a Tragedy by Frederick Guest Tomlins, 1835.

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March 23, 2016 (permalink)

From Moving Picture Age (1920).

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March 22, 2016 (permalink)

In the song "A Little Bird Told Me," Ken Clinger takes a CLICHÉ and (anagrammatically speaking) offers CHICLE for listeners to chew on.  Anagrammatically furthermore, he transforms the OVERUSED into a SURE DOVE.  He salvages INLAID OUTPUTS from the PLATITUDINOUS.  The TIMEWORN has MERIT NOW.  Clinger's song blows out of the water our previously favorite lyrics woven from clichés, Thompson Twin's "Still Waters."
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March 18, 2016 (permalink)

We presume that as Sally Field aged, her roles got less interesting, too.  (Shame on the Washington Post headline writer.)

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March 12, 2016 (permalink)

You've seen Johan Deckmann's Smart Ways to Use Poetry in a Street Fight.  Though only the book's cover has survived, we speculated that (if the physicists are right about multiple universes) there's some world in which the book's pages exist.  Through the powers of several arcane tools at our disposal, we were able to purloin five fragments.  We present them here, exclusively.  The first is an advertisement from the book's front matter, for a Lord Byron-branded boxing glove "used in every important poetic convention."  (The ad notes that "unprotected figures" are "protected by hyperbole.")  The second fragment instructs on how to deal with "a cowardly poet of society" by throwing him on his face.  The third recommends grabbing the "pencil-hand" and using an enjambment to incapacitate any "poetaster" who has whipped out a synecdoche.  The fourth involves using a powerful blank verse to leave someone curled in a ball, or an epigram to slash a bone in two.  The final fragment addresses how difficult it is for an idle rhymer to train and offers a tip for the writing desk.  (The book was, of course, second-hand, and the red markings on the pages are as we found them.)

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March 10, 2016 (permalink)

Here's an all-consonant phrase from on-high, courtesy of The Hero Yoshihiko and the Key of the Evil Spirits (Yuusha Yoshihiko to Akuryou no Kagi勇者ヨシヒコと悪霊の鍵).  The ravenous Buddha is played by comedian Sato Jiro.  His characterization is of a trickster, and while the phrase "trickster buddha" delivers very few search results, there is at least one journal article about Buddha as a trickster.

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March 7, 2016 (permalink)

We're honored that our controversial "pop" take on occult language, in Magic Words: A Dictionary (Weiser Books), proved influential to the writers of the TV series Kamen Rider Wizard when they sought catchy English phrases to work into their scripts.  In that show, the magician hero uses playful pop-culture-derived words like "shabadoobie" to trigger transformations.  Though we have been lauded for being the first reference of magic to analyze mystical phrases from pop lyrics, comic books, TV shows, movies, and pulp fiction, our approach is yet something of a hot potato.  Claude Lecouteux's Dictionary of Ancient Magic Words and Spells directly takes on our own dictionary, claiming that while the Harry Potter series has popularized magic words, "novels, films, and comic books can provide only a simplified, distorted version of them."  You'll have already detected a philosophical division that can be likened to the "lesser and greater vehicles" of Buddhism's Hinayana and Mahayana schools.  The "greater vehicle" (our own) allows for the recognition of magic words in all sorts of sources and contexts, while the "lesser vehicle" (Lecouteux's) pooh-pooh's language not scrawled on ancient scrolls.  (Here's a secret that the Buddhists eventually came to realize: both vehicles get to the same place.  Lecouteux, bless him, doesn't seem privy to that insight.  But no matter, as words of power march on, oblivious and impervious to the footnotes scholars try to pin on them.)


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March 4, 2016 (permalink)

This is a dummy news article, meant to display a typeface.  But why the specific detail that the subject is a janitor?  [Our answer is in black text on black background; highlight it to view.]  
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Original Content Copyright © 2016 by Craig Conley. All rights reserved.